Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Blessings Darlings!

Stress.  We all have it - life is full of things that we feel are stressful.  So, what to do about it?

Short Term Fixes

I get tension head aches.  Which are caused by holding stress in my  neck and shoulders.  So I have to take time during higher-stress times to work on relaxing those muscles.  Head circles, shoulder circles, getting the Chubby Hubby or Spawn to give me neck/shoulder rubs, rubbing my neck myself, all those type of things.

Visualization works here as well. I can close my eyes and take a few deep breaths.  While doing that I visualize the breath going to my shoulders/neck, breaking up the tension there, and the tightness leaving with each exhalation.  Done when I first feel the headache coming on it can take care of it in just a minute or two!

It can be hard to concentrate when feeling stressed.  Start by having a cup of tea (or water).  First, doing this interrupts the stress-building pattern.  Second, the extra fluids help 'dilute' the cortisol your body produces when stressed.

Again, visualization can be a tool.  While I work at home, so can always light a candle and visualize it burning up the stress, allowing me to be calm and focused, you can visualize the stress going to a plant in your office where it is transmuted (like the plant transmutes carbon dioxide into oxygen), or you might have charged and lit a candle for this at some time at home, and when snuffing it charged that, say, 'the flame burns forever in the worlds beyond' so you can send the stress to the candle to be transmuted any time, any day, any where.  You can wash your hands, and visualize the stress washing away with the water.

Long Term Fixes

But wouldn't it be best to set up life so there is less stress?  Spend a little time early in the day (or the night before) getting things ready for the day.  Make a to-do list, many lists, so your day is organized and you don't forget things.  Do all you can pre-emptively.  Pay attention to details that will trip you up later.  Check your facts.  Exercise and eat right, so your body can better deal with what stress is going to happen. Give yourself extra time to do, well, EVERYTHING.

Frondly, Fern

Monday, January 30, 2012

Imbolc Preparations

Blessings Darlings!

Want to prepare?  Okay.

Turn off the podcast.  Put down the book on Wicca. Step away from the computer.

Instead ... go outside. Spend time there.

Make it a point to notice when it's sun rise and sun set each day.  Feel the lengthening of the light in all your being. 

Leave offerings for the local manifestations of the nature spirits.  It's still the hungry times for them, and will be for rather a while.  Coat a big pine cone with peanut butter (or melted tallow) and roll it in bird seed.  Tie it on to a local tree.

Frondly, Fern

Havamal, Installment 2

Blessings  Darlings!

In our last installment of the Havamal, I sort of declare that it was aimed at .... a business traveler.  Doesn't matter it the traveler is a trader or raider, I suppose, ultimately, the point is to return richer than when you set out.  So, where does the text take us now?

The man who stands at a strange threshold
Should be cautious before he cross it. 
Glance this way and that:
Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
Awaiting him in the hall?

Greetings to the host, 
The guest has arrived,
In which seat shall he sit?
Rash is he who at unknown doors 
Relies on his good luck.

Well, what do you know - it sound like skills from the Ninjitsu training I had!  Situational awareness - scope out your surroundings at all times.  Especially in a group of people you are meeting for the first time, you will not know all the alliances, and certainly not all the history.  

We were rather in that situation a year ago, when we moved.  Among our neighbors, who were the power brokers?  Would the HOA really enforce the rules on garbage cans, and if so, who would be reporting violations?  What families don't get along?  Scoping out the hidden alliances and sand traps was necessary!

Our approach - rely on courtesy, our operating motto "Don't embarrass the neighbors". Keep the yard neat, help neighborhood upkeep, wave at every car we pass/passes the house if we're outside.

It's also our business approach, but more on that in a few verses.

Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb,
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells.

Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handclothes and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
that he may tell his tale. 

The ball is back in the host's court here.  Hosts have responsibilities.  Hang up their coats. Show them to the restroom.  Get them a cup of coffee, or meal or whatever the situation is.  And then scope the guest out!  

The assorted rights and responsibilities of guests and hosts are very much like the handshaking done by the machines when you send a fax.  They make sure that everyone is using a communication platform that works at both ends.

While you're at it, check their company's D&B listing.  

More in our next installment!

Frondly, Fern

Friday, January 27, 2012

Havamal, Part 1

Blessings Darlings!

So, how does the Havamal start?  Like this:

Young and alone on a long road,
once I lost my way: 
Rich I felt when I found another;
Man rejoices in man,

A kind word need not cost much, 
The price of praise can be cheap:
With half a loaf and an empty cup
I found myself a friend,

Two wooden stakes stood on the plain,
On them I hung my clothes;
Draped in linen, they looked well born,
But, naked, I was a nobody.

Too early to many homes I came,
Too late, it seemed, to some:
The ale was finished or else un-brewed,
The unpopular cannon please,

Some would invite me to visit their homes,
But none thought I needed a meal,
As though I had eaten a whole joint,
Just before with a friend who had two.

We start the poem on the road.  Which  makes sense, since Odhinn would be talking to His people, not to Thor's people or Heartha's people, etc. (Thor's men, being working men, are more tied to the lands/fields of home.)  Being on the road means you have given up the comforts of home in search of something more.  It's not like doing this make you the equivalent of the 'superior man' in the I Ching, but it DOES speak of a certain amount of ambition or drive to better oneself and ones position in life.

Or, as we say in Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) - why not excellence?

And yet ....

There's clearly a difference between leaving one's comfort zone and being lost and alone.  Guides, companions ... humans were then, and still are now, tribal.  We may define tribe differently now, it can be family/kith/kin, neighbors/garth, religion based, politically based, economically based, whatever.  But no one does it totally alone.  Your tribe IS part of your riches.

Which leads, of course, to the issue of hospitality and how one treats strangers and travelers.  Not only could you be the stranger/traveler soon, but the stranger at your door could be Odhinn (or Zeus, or Hermes, or Macha, or Finn, or.... well, you Pagans get it).  True, being on the road now isn't a much a life-threatening challenge it was back in the day.

 Simple politeness is clearly the essence of hospitality.  Giving kind words, sharing half a loaf.

Then the 'don't mistake fine clothes for a fine person'.  Just as true now with fashion ad pricy clothes as it was then with linen vs. rough working folks clothes!

And don't mistake having fine clothes with being well-fed, either on the road or at home, actually.  Assume that others need care and feeding - offer food, drink, again, common courtesy.

Actually, this sort of brings up eating with your guests/business meetings/etc.  "Gosh we've run out of food' for you, or "we don't eat good food here, so have none to share" are old tricks.  Egyptians not eating with others is mentioned in the Bible, and now kashrut laws for Jews and Halal vs Haram food issues for Moslems, not to mention trying to offer hospitality to vegans or trying to account for food allergies, can really cause problems in offering hospitality.  Where do the responsibility of good host vs good guest get drawn?  Back then, it was just 'share what you have'.  Now - we smoke a damn fine pulled pork here, but it's sure not something I can offer my kosher relatives (some of which won't eat in my house at all).

Thus ends part 1 of our look at the Havamal.  More to come! This WILL take a while, and may or may not be a daily thing - depends on how life goes. After all, I still have recipes to share, and opinions on what's happening in the world to spout, too.

Frondly, Fern

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Nights

Blessings Darlings!

Back in the day - and I mean REALLY back in Europe, from the iron age until industrialization - winter was the time for learning history, poetry, culture, wisdom.  After all, in summer the herds would be out in the fields being watched by the original cow boys from dawn till dusk.  And dawn was really early, and dusk really late.

But in winter, the thinned herds were kept in the village so you could easily feed and water them.  Dawn was late, dusk early, so you didn't crash as soon as the sun went down.  And, in Ireland, even the Fianna bunked in towns during the winter.  So after dinner you could head over to the neighbor's place and the elders would tell the stories, share the poetry and tales. 

So I think I'll go there in this blog for a while.  I'll start with the words of the Havamal and some of my own commentary on it, how it applies to MY life.  I'm not going to pretend to be overly knowledgeable about the time it comes from, after all!

The Havamal is part of the Poetic Edda, a collection of Old  Norse poetry.  It is, fundamentally, common sense served up by Odhinn.  Common sense being, well, awfully uncommon lately, it seems like a great place to start.

I'll be using the Auden & Taylor translation, which is all over the interwebs and appears to be public domain.

If any of y'all are knowledgeable about the times this comes from, or have other insights to add, PLEASE add comments as we go along!  I'm no expert historian, nor am I Asatruar or anyone who has really studied this in context.

Frondly, Fern

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kotatsu Heating

Blessings Darlings!

Winter has finally arrived here on the east coast of the US. It's 31 degrees F as I type, and not due to get much warmed today.  A second round of freezing rain is due tonight/early tomorrow morning.  Nothing particularly out of the ordinary.

Being broke, cheap, and green, I keep the heat here turned low.  The house is set for 60 F right now.  Spawn has a tiny space heater he occasionally runs in his bedroom, Chubby Hubby has a larger space heater in his lab. My areas - the kitchen and my office - have no space heaters.  I feel the cold less than they do, for one thing.  Second, when I'm in the kitchen I'm cooking and otherwise moving.

But in my office I'm sitting at my desk all day. And my office is in the basement. With the heat vent closed. What I do to keep warm on days like today is, well, first line of defense is dressing warmly, but what I'm typing about today is a modification on the Japanese Kotatsu heating system.

Kotatsu heating is having a small heating element under the table you are working at.  Houses in Japan aren't the Tyvak'd air-tight things we aim for here in the US - they allow air in, so here weren't problems with carbon monoxide poisoning!  So you'd have the tiny smoldering fire under the table, a light table cloths, and you'd be kept warm in a cold room.

Now they use electric heaters.

Me, I've got another system going. I have one light tea light candle, in a glass jar.  My desk has a partition (so my legs don't show if you were sitting across from me) so that side holds in the heat, and it has sides on the left and right.  My legs go into the cubby hole ... and I have attached a curtain (using Velcro) to that opening.  This keeps the heat in.

It really makes a HUGE difference in my comfort level on cold days.  I'm not saying my upper back is very warm, it's not (I might put on a sweater on colder days), but my legs are VERY happy and my hands are very happy (I can put them under the curtain for warmth, but they don't seem to need that with my legs warm.).

And tea candles are cheap!  Craft stores have them for about a dime each on sale, and I get the for way less at garage sales. 

One candle. An unused piece of material. Hours of warmth for a nickle.

I'm a happy Fern.

Frondly, Fern

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winter and Honor

Blessings Darlings!

I'm writing this on Friday morning, tho' I think it'll be posted on Tuesday next week. (I'm trying to post almost daily thru' Monday thru' Friday right now).  And tonight we're due to get some Seasonally Appropriate Weather, for the first time this winter.  A few inches of snow overnight, followed by sleet then rain tomorrow.

Which means the Spawn has to go to his job obnoxiously early tomorrow morning on snow-covered roads (they don't plow here unless there is more snow).

Being our son, he will be there and be there on time.  Normal weather is not a reason to not go to work.  Even tho' I'll be the one driving - because our car won't run if it sits out in the rain all day in the parking lot at work.

His job. His honor.  My getting up and being out of here before dawn.

Oh well.  That's life.

Frondly, Fern

Monday, January 23, 2012

Soup Stock Making

Blessings Darlings!

So, you already know I'm cheap/frugal/broke-ass. And Green.  So I made stock yesterday, from bones and veggie scraps.  Having an open can of tomato paste from a previous day I added some of that, which of course made the stock that much nummier. 

Husband and I discussed that nummier-ness.  I mentioned that Emeril puts tomato paste on veggies and roasts them before using them for stock.  But I use the peeling of carrots, ends/leaves of celery, etc in my stock (being cheap, ya know), etc so don't roast them.  OTOH, I NEVER have enough onion scraps, so I can put the tomato paste on sliced onions and roast THEM before making stock next time, along with roasting the bones.  (BTW, I tried putting tomato paste on the bones before roasting them, but the tomato paste burned before the bones were well browned, wetter veggies are the way to go if roasting tomato paste.)

So that's the plan for next time.  Which could be soon, because I sure go thru' a lot of stock in winter!

Frondly, Fern

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's Elemental

Blessings Darlings!

Last fall, my life turned into a series of leaks.  The car. The toilets. The refrigerator. The refrigerator at my MOTHERS when I went THERE.  One damn water issue after another.

By the time of the leak at my Mothers, it was clear that elemental Water was trying to get my attention.  I started daily water meditation (crystal bowl of water, sun or at least daylight reflecting in it), doing some stuff my High Priestess suggested, doing an Invoking Water pentagram with every cup of liquid I drank, etc.

I can't say that I got any specific deep messages from Elemental Water, but we have rather more of a relationship that we had 6 weeks ago.  And the leaks have all been fixed and not returned.

A working relationship. 

That type of relationship is what seems most important to me in magic.  Being intimate enough to know you and the  Elemental can can do communicate.  Or the herb, or Spirit, or whatever. 

Build those relationship, my fronds.  Network.  That network is often what tirns into your safety net later.

Frondly, Fern

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce Search

Blessings Darlings!

Once upon a time, I used to make my own spaghetti sauce from scratch.  That was 30 years ago.  I've long since lost the recipe.

But our finances being as they are, I've got to go back to making that from scratch instead of buying even sale priced jarred sauce.  So we're trying on recipes.

This morning I made Alton Brown's Pantry Tomato Sauce.  Thick, layered flavors, zesty - too spicy for us to use on pasta for every-day use.  OTOH, we think it will rock in lasagna where we've found that most pasta sauces don't bring enough to the party.

This afternoon I made America's Test Kitchen's Quick Pasta sauce, from the Big Red "Family Cookbook".  That's a fine and simple recipe with a bright fresh flavor, but not as much layered flavor as I'd like.  I'd probably like wine added at the very least, and probably more basil and some oregano.  I think it will make a banging 'pink sauce', with the addition of some heavy cream.  If I could afford heavy cream.  And I wasn't on a diet.

I might mix the two sauces for our spaghetti dinner tonight as well as do the official comparison test.

Do y'all make your own spaghetti sauce? If so, is the recipe online?  Or do you buy jars?

Frondly, Fern

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Homelessness & Occupy Camps

Blessings Darlings!

It's just a few hours since I did that last blog post.  But I've been challenged about what I'd do about homeless folks at OccupyDC that aren't participating in the Occupy movement OTHER than having the police evict the homeless (who had been using the park/plaza first).  For the record, I worked for ages with homeless people in various parts of Illinois.

Since I'm in West Virginia without a car, I've only been to OccupyDC once.  I don't know all the committees - is there one aimed at Resident involvement? If so, that committee could look at things like ....

Dudes, you have rules.  Add a bit to them. It doesn't take many changes. Enforced rules work in shelters that aren't just 'sheets and eats' shelters.  If things like this aren't covered then maybe add things like minimum work or volunteering requirements for residents, and/or required AA/NA/whatever meeting attendance for recovering addicts and/or everyone up and attending sleeper meeting in morning for those without jobs, and/or everyone attends GA, all residents have to be on at least one committee, etc, etc, etc.  I'm sure that there are more things that could be considered. 

Would the rules need to be enforced?  Sure.  Would that take people to do?  Yes.  How would they be enforced?  I'd suggest ... nagging.  Or a 'buddy' assigned to .... as others have termed them .... 'unfriendlies' to walk 'em to GAs, their chosen committees, etc. 

Given how many folks who do not choose to participate in the program at shelters with strong case management and instead choose to, simply leave, changing from sheets-and-eats format to managed format seems likely to .... cause walk outs of those not participating in OccupyDC. 

Is it guaranteed?  No.  Is it fast?  No.  Is it easy? No.  It is building a new world and that, as you already know, is slow and hard work. 

But my fear is that the other 'solution' offered is to turn in those non-participating to the police for eviction for 'not being part of the vigil' is just, again, throwing the homeless under the bus. 

Frondly, Fern

Prove It!

Blessings Darlings!

Yesterday a guy left a 13 month old alone in a tent at OccupyDC, wearing very little clothes.  In 40 degree temperatures, and a cold rain.  Occupiers heard the baby crying, found her neglected, called the police, cared for the baby until the police arrived, and when the guy came back (at least an hour after leaving the baby alone) he was arrested.  The baby is okay.  The response to the situation was correct.

Apparently the guy had arrived a few days earlier and set up a tent.  No word on if he was homeless and just there because he could put up a tent or if he claimed to be part of OccupyDC. 

So some folks (NOT campers, BTW) want OccupyDC to 'vet' everyone who stays in the park.  As if OccupyDC OWNS the park and can and SHOULD say who can camp there.  Because, they say, only folks who are 'totally unimpeachable' should be in the park, or part of the movement, so .... I guess so that no one not a part of it won't have an excuse to dismiss it.

Unimpeachable.  Gandhi wouldn't qualify, as he sexually manipulated his female followers (he slept with them - without sex - as 'purity tests'.  Just sleeping.) 

And, let's see.  Gays make some folks uncomfortable. Unwed mothers. Transexuals. Homeless. Undocumented workers. The poor. The handicapped. Ex-cons. Legal immigrants. Blacks. Browns. Asians. Gingers. Old folks.   The hearing-impaired. The visually impaired. Pagans. Jews (and, yes, there are a few folks who post on Twitter under the #OccupyDC hashtag who want all Jews out of the OWS movement).  Catholics. Mormons. Buddhists. Hindus. Atheists. "Radicals".  The list goes on and on and on, if you want to screen out all those who are in some way "impeachable".

But some folks want OTHERS (who, in a leaderless movement, I'm not sure) to vet those who stay in the park and/or are 'part of the movement' for appropriateness.  I'd love to hear what criteria they would use. And, since they say that this is to weed out 'bad apples', why they think that 'bad apples' would tell the truth in such a screening? 

And how they'd 'prove' to the press if a person was vetted and a 'real part of the movement'. Issue ID cards - official papers? Keep a list of the names (so handy for the govt to round everyone up under NDAA!  Good going, do the fascists list making FOR THEM!)? 

At least I'd never make it on to their list of "real Occupy Protesters", since I'm totally impeachable.  I swear, all the fucking time.  I've had tax liens, so clearly I've violated tax regulations.  I'm Pagan and say it out loud - and have an electronic trail of that.

Some folks would throw all those who are 'not unimpeachable" under the bus for political gain.  And some of those people CLAIM to be part of OWS.  In MY never humble opinion ... they lie about supporting OWS's principles by holding that view.

THOSE people would fail the vetting if *I* was running it.  Pack up your tent and leave.

Frondly (sarcastic snort), Fern

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Full Moon in Cancer

Blessings Darlings!

Today's the Full Moon, which makes it a Wiccan Esbat. Many of us will be working magick today, as esbats are good for that. With the full moon in Cancer, it's probably especially good for family/relationship magicks, I'd guess.

I wish that there was going to be an Esbat working at OccupyDC, but none is planned.  I'm too far away (and have no car today) so can't make it there to see about organizing one.  OTOH, this is as good a time as any for me to start looking into if the DMV (that District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) Pagan community has anything going to support OccupyDC, and if not try to get something going.  Nothing based on the coven I'm in or the two Pagan denominations I'm in, but Pagan individuals working to support the protestors, especially the ones sleeping in the Plaza.  I'd REALLY like to make sure that, if Occupy wants it, that there an be an Imbolc celebration there. 

Frondly, Fern

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dreaming of cookies.

Blessings, Darlings!

Weird dreams. The intersection of 'Tara and Frank, in Chicago' (or north suburbs?) was important.  Gathering wild bamboo shoots was important.  But they were not shaped like they really are.  And ... oddest of all .... Roman Catholic communion wafers that were shaped sort of like palmiers but had the image of crucified body on them, but often just skeletons, colored differently each which  might have related to the Loa or to chakras - it wasn't my path, either Christian or Eastern or Afro-Caribbean, so I didn't examine it closely.  And we were getting cookies from a Jewish Temple as well.  But the hosts HAD been consecrated at a Mass, and I was surprised that they were being handed out in bulk.

The oddest part is that I so rarely remember any of my dreams at all.  Maybe it's the influence of tomorrow's full moon?  Or the siren call of cookies? 

Frondly, Fern


Blessings, Darlings!

I have to admit, I was hesitant to blog about trying to lose weight and modifying recipes.  And then I remembered that about half my posts are ALWAYS about me and food.  So it's not really any different than usual....

Frondly, Fern

Friday, January 6, 2012

Recipe Modification

Blessings, Darlings!

So, since I'm trying to lose weight to lower my blood pressure, I suppose I'm going to have to modify a recipe or two.  Like the chicken & Dumplings I'm planning on serving on Sunday.  The guys like it, uh, with puff pastry instead of dumplings. That's probably not my best choice in starches ... and, really, it's not my favorite starch anyway. 

I'll probably serve THEIRS that way, anyway, since I heat the chicken/veggies/sauce apart from baking the puff pastry.  But for me, hmmmm.....

I thought about serving it over brown rice, sort of like chicken a la king.  That would be okay.  Over barley? No, not appealing.  Lentils?  Oh!  Now THAT sounds good.  I'll use brown, only because the red ones become more of a puree and I don't happen to have any green ones.  And, yes, I'm using evaporated skim milk instead of cream in the sauce.

First-world problem solved!

Frondly, Fern

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

These Dreams

I was in the desert southwest.  Most or all of the coven was there, too, tho' I only remember Monica, Daniel, and Jen.  Petroglyphs, all sorts of 'big stuff' to see. But then ... looking closely and quietly, there were these small things, about an inch in diameter and two inches tall.  They were shaped sort of like the Capitol Dome, out of wicker or grass.  With an opening/doorway and .... I'm sure that there was another opening, but I can't really say where.  On the 'floor' of each was a stone or other .... item.  Were the woven things offerings, or were they altars and the item inside was an offering, or a symbol of the Divine?  I'm not clear. I do know that Wakan Tanka was referred to in the dream, but I've NO idea if Wakan Tanka is from that area.

I do know that I'll be working on making some, and seeing what info comes to me then.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I'm Back! And Front!

Blessings Darlings!

Yes, I've not blogged in FOREVER. I haven't had anything to say that didn't sound like whining to me, so I didn't impose it on y'all.

I'm planning on being back now.  Not that it's a RESOLUTION or anything.  I have goals, not 'resolutions'. SMART goals - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-limited goals.

Some of them have to do with our finances: reduce debt by $12K this year, and increase savings by $5K.  These aren't the most realistic and achievable, but I'm aiming high this year.  Last year was all about surviving, and nothing more.  Of course, this means that my spending money will be just as limited this year as it was last year.  And I'm considering selling my blood plasma for a bit of extra income. 

Yeah, I also have fitness goals.  I want to drop my blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.  To do these things, yes, it's lose weight, exercise, and work on stress management.  I started exercising, some, while I was away from the blog.  I kicked it up at the end of December.  My upper body is unhappy right now, due to yesterday's workout, but at least my butt isn't complaining about the bicycle seat any more.  If I EVER got the tendonitis in my arm reduced I'll get back to pumping some iron.  My minimum weight goal (notice that here, unlike finances, I'm NOT aiming high?) is to drop 25 pounds this year, about two pounds a month.  Diet specific goal is to eat at least 5 servings of fruit and veggies a day, and aim for 9 servings.  Right now having even 5 is being a challenge. 

So, that's what's up here right now.  What's new with you?

Frondly, Fern